Reading at Beechen Cliff School

Our ambition for reading:

At Beechen Cliff our ambition is for all of our pupils to be reading at or above their chronological age by the end of Year 9. This will allow pupils to confidently access their Key Stage 4 curriculum and GCSE exams. Further, confidence in reading will lead to pupils reading regularly, which will increase their cultural capital, enhance their vocabulary and develop their imagination. We aim to build a reading culture where pupils develop a love of reading and read for pleasure. 

A good grounding in reading is essential for pupils’ acquisition of knowledge and their ability to develop schema (making connections between the things that they know, both within and across their subjects). The average reading age required to access GCSE level texts and examination papers is 15 years and 8 months. We therefore have a comprehensive and rigorous approach to reading, which ensures that our pupils develop the knowledge, vocabulary and reading fluency to access the curriculum and their exams, and that they leave school with sufficient reading skills for future learning and employment. We ensure that our pupils read widely and constructively, and pupils’ reading supplements our curriculum to ensure that pupils leave us with sufficient knowledge and cultural capital to succeed in life. Our approach to reading develops pupils’ reading skills, comprehension and accuracy and their confidence and enjoyment in reading. 

Building a reading culture is particularly important at Beechen Cliff School, as we are a boys’ school in the lower school (Years 7-11), and there is a gender reading gap among children in England (and many other countries). Studies show that girls outperform boys in reading and literacy skills and that boys are more likely to leave school unable to read. Research by the National Literacy Trust found that the gender reading enjoyment gap increased five-fold during lockdown, with 60.2% of girls saying they enjoyed reading during lockdown, compared with 48.9% before, while only 48.7% of boys said they enjoyed reading amid the pandemic, compared with 46.6% pre-lockdown. In this context, we must take a robust approach to boys’ reading at Beechen Cliff School. We have detailed below what we are currently doing to tackle this problem and ensure that Beechen Cliff pupils leave school with strong, age-appropriate reading skills and a love of reading. For further information about how to support your son’s reading at home, please read the following article:

How we ensure children become good readers

Reading as part of the curriculum

In Years 7, 8 and 9 reading is timetabled as part of the curriculum. In Year 7 pupils have two hours of reading per fortnight and in Year 8 and 9 pupils have one hour of reading per fortnight. The Accelerated Reader Programme is implemented through these lessons. Accelerated Reader is a digital programme that helps pupils to choose books at or slightly above their reading level to help their reading skills develop. Upon finishing books, pupils take a quiz on that book to see how well they have understood it. The programme then makes recommendations for their next read. 

Year 7 pupils follow a programme teaching them how best to use the Library and find resources within it for their first term of Library lessons. 

 The table below gives the list of titles available for reading lessons at school. Reading teachers choose their class readers based on the knowledge of their group.

Year 7 Year 8 Year 9
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

Saxon Shield Norman Sword

The Indian in the Cupboard

The London Eye Mystery

Flood Child

Freak the Mighty Coram Boy

The Lie tree 

Ready Player One

 The Book Thief

 Private Peaceful (Support English only)

 Wizard of Earthsea


 The Giver

 Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

Uncle Montague’s Tale of Terror

Skullduggery Pleasant


Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Animal Farm

The Wall


Lord of the Flies

Noughts and Crosses

 I’m the King of the Castle

Pupils in Year 7 have two 30 minute reading homeworks each week and pupils in Years 8 and 9 have one 45 minute reading homework each week. Reading homework is set and monitored by a member of the English Faculty who takes the class for their reading lessons each week or fortnight. 

A phonics based reading programme takes place to support our weakest readers in Year 7, as part of what we refer to as our ‘Achieve Curriculum’. This aims to rapidly develop reading confidence and fluency.

A literacy support curriculum is in place for pupils who require additional literacy support in Year 8 and 9. These lessons focus on reading and writing skills and vocabulary development. Further support for literacy is available at KS4 in place of a fourth GCSE option subject. Pupils are assigned to this class in discussion with the SENDCO.

Across both KS3 and KS4 vocabulary is focused on in every lesson with key words displayed and referred to as part of the whole school teaching and learning policy. Teaching reading and developing vocabulary is seen as the responsibility of all teaching staff. All Faculty Improvement Plans include an objective to develop reading within their subject areas with Literacy Leads in each Faculty working with the school Literacy Coordinator. All schemes of learning highlight where reading opportunities are incorporated into lessons across our curriculum.

Reading in tutor time

Within the tutor time programme there are two reading sessions a week for all pupils in Years 7-11. All pupils have one session of guided reading with their tutor, and one session of independent reading where they read their own book for pleasure. Pupils in Year 7-10 record what they are reading and what has happened in their book into their planners on a weekly basis. They also keep a record of all of the books they have read throughout the year in their reading log at the back of their planners. Their reading feeds into our Character Award, where they can achieve Bronze, Silver or Gold depending on how many books they have read. 

Further reading tasks are incorporated into the Tutor Time programme. Activities such as the theme of the week or character development programme often involve reading extracts or other materials as a group and discussing the texts that have been read. Please follow the link below for further information on our Character Development Programme:

Reading on a daily basis

All pupils are expected to have reading books with them at all times that are an appropriate level for them. This is determined by the Accelerated Reader Programme, as pupils are encouraged to take a quiz when they have finished reading a book. 

The School Library is available for reading before school, at breaks and lunchtimes, and after school every day of the week. Pupils are strongly encouraged to use this resource, and are motivated by our termly reading competitions and certificates when they have read a certain number of words (recorded by Accelerated Reader when they complete quizzes).

Extra-curricular activities also give opportunities for reading wherever possible, for example Scrabble Club, Humanities Club, Warhammer Club, Beekeeping Club, Duke of Edinburgh Award, the Equalities Team, the Eco Team etc.

The Accelerated Reader Programme

We use the Accelerated Reader programme (AR) which helps teachers manage and monitor children’s independent reading practice. Pupils pick books at their own level and read them at their own pace. When finished, pupils take a short quiz on the computer – passing the quiz is an indication that the pupil has understood what has been read. Teachers, Librarians and Support Staff may assist pupils by:  

  • Guiding them to books appropriate to their ability and interests
  • Asking probing questions as pupils read and before quizzing
  • Pairing pupils with our Sixth Form buddy programme, where Sixth Form volunteers read with or to younger pupils

To access Accelerated Reader quizzes from home pupils should log in to the Student Intranet (link on homepage of school website), click on the tile which says Accelerated Reader, then use their login details and password to access the quiz.

We recommend regular reading for, as with anything, performance improves with practice and children who read at least 20 minutes a day with a 90% comprehension rate on the AR quizzes see the greatest gain. Some of this can be completed as part of the weekly homework schedule.

We have lots of books that the children can choose from in school, however we are also aware that many children like to read their own books from home. You can visit the website to search all of the available books with AR quizzes to see if the book your child wants to read is on the scheme.

GL Assessments – New Group Reading Tests

In addition to the AR quizzes, we use GL Assessment’s New Group Reading Test (NGRT) to assess pupils’ reading ages. GL Assessment’s New Group Reading Test is a standardised assessment which measures reading skills against a national average. It is adaptive, which means that it responds to the ability of the child and adapts the questions accordingly, so that stronger readers are challenged and less-strong readers remain engaged. The test takes around 30 minutes to complete and pupils take the test on a computer. There are two sections: sentence completion and comprehension of a passage. 

All pupils take the NGRT at the start of the academic year, then pupils who score below their age-related expectation take a further paper-based test to confirm whether or not the pupil requires reading intervention. 

Pupils with a lower reading age than their chronological reading age then receive some form of reading intervention, and sit the test again at two further points in the academic year to see if progress has been made.

Reading Age results for the past three years:

(% of pupils at or above age-related expectation)

2021-22 2022-23 2023-24

(Tested in July 2023)

Year 7 78% 80% September 22

85% February 23

Year 8 84% 78% September 22

84% February 23

Year 9 92% 80% September 22

85% February 23


Reading Intervention Programme

We use data from the NGRT and in house reading assessments to inform our reading intervention programme. Interventions are as follows:

  • Achieve Curriculum (Year 7) or English Support Group (Years 8-11) taught by the SENDCO or English teachers
  • Completing online reading intervention, Lexia, during two tutor time sessions a week
  • Taking part in small group reading sessions with a Librarian
  • If the pupil is EAL, having one to one sessions with our EAL lead teacher, Mrs Thorn
  • If the pupil is SEND, having one to one sessions with the Learning Support Team
  • Being a priority for reading with their teacher, 6th form reading buddy or librarian during reading lessons 

Sixth Form Buddy Programme – A select group of our Sixth Form students buddy up with weaker readers in KS3. It’s a time where KS3 pupils spend 15-30 minutes a week reading with their ‘buddy’ who has volunteered to support this programme. This either takes place one to one or in small groups. Importantly, its aim is to enthuse the younger pupils, engender confidence and encourage more frequent reading. In addition it’s a time for the Sixth Form students to recapture their own imagination and enthusiasm for reading alongside the younger students, as well as developing their leadership skills

How we foster a love of reading

The Library 

Our Library offers a wonderful space for our pupils to come in and read for pleasure. The shelves are always fully stocked and updated on a monthly basis to ensure that pupils have access to a wide variety of texts, from modern literature to classics. There are books and magazines available for all abilities, but pupils are encouraged to read books in their ZPD (zone of proximal development) range so that they are always developing their reading skills. We love to receive book recommendations from our pupils. 

The pupils describe our library as a bright, welcoming, organised space where they can find help and information as well as books. There are displays in the library highlighting particular themes, genres or book events as well as reviews and recommendations from staff and pupils. Regular activities are run throughout the year and pupils can get involved by attending Library Club or by becoming a Pupil Librarian.

The Beechen Canon, a selection of fifty books (ten for each year group) is a varied collection for all abilities. Pupils are encouraged to read their year group’s collection and rewards will be given to individuals and tutor groups who accept this challenge. All pupils in Years 7-10 have the Beechen Canon in the back of their planners, and it can be viewed on the school website here: 

The Library is open before school, at break times, lunchtimes and after school so that pupils always have a safe and quiet space to read during their free time at school. Many pupils choose to read outside on the field during the summer months, too.

Reading Competitions

We run a number of reading competitions throughout the year and have a whole school approach to ‘World Book Day’ with lots of activities going on, such as the collaborative reading of a short story at the start of each lesson throughout the day, and staff dressing up as book characters. 

We have a ‘Millionaire Reader’ competition each term to see which pupils have managed to read one million words across Year 7 and 8. If this is achieved a certificate, a book of their choice and a bookmark is presented to these pupils. It really is a phenomenal achievement! There are also prizes for smaller achievements along the way, such as when pupils have read 100,000 words, 250,000 words and 500,000 words, to further motivate, encourage and reward our readers.


Author visits

The Library contains notices about upcoming events and competitions, such as author visits. Recent author visits include Seth Burkett (November 2022), Luke Palmer (November 2022) and Finbar Hawkins (June 2023). Author visits involve whole year group assemblies, where authors speak to pupils about their books and experiences, as well as smaller focus groups and workshops targeting certain groups of students.

Spelling Bee

Our English team runs a Spelling Bee for Year 7 pupils to further promote an enjoyment and aspirational culture when it comes to reading and literacy. 

Staff Training

Reading and vocabulary development is a focus for staff training through INSET days, staff meetings and Teaching and Learning briefings. This ensures reading remains high profile and all teachers and teaching assistants have strategies to use to develop vocabulary and support reading, including a basic understanding of phonics.

Intended Impact of our Reading Strategy

Our intended impact is that pupils develop a love of reading, develop the reading skills, fluency, vocabulary and knowledge to access the full curriculum, to build cultural capital and be fully prepared for the next stage of their education.

We  are aiming that:

  • by the end of Year 9 (KS3) all of our pupils are reading at their chronological age or have surpassed it
  • the majority of our pupils are entered for and achieve the EBacc in Year 11
  • Year 11 pupils achieve a good set of GCSE outcomes which allows them to progress to their intended destination with over 90% achieving a Grade 4 or above in English
  • Pupils develop a love of reading and routinely read for pleasure
  • Beechen Cliff School has a culture where reading is encouraged, developed and celebrated

Supporting Reading At Home

At home, you can help by encouraging your child to read, discussing books with them, asking questions about what they have read and visiting your local library together. Together, we can help every child to be a successful reader!

To support the school reading programme, you can do the following:

  • Ensure that your child is doing their reading homework each week. This is two 30 minute sessions in Year 7 and one 45 minute session in Year 8 and 9
  • Ensure that your child is recording what they are reading and books they have completed in their study planner (Years 7-10)
  • Ensure that your child is doing AR quizzes when they finish a book
  • Read with your child in the evenings, using the bookmark below to question them about what they have read and check their understanding of it 

For further tips on how you can support with reading at home please click on the link below:

7 Top Tips For Supporting Reading At Home

Updated: September 2023